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Orders of the Day — Regulatory Reform Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 10:18 pm on 19 March 2001.

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7. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any motion to vary or supplement this order for the purpose of allocating time to proceedings on consideration of any messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.

The motion proposes that the Committee stage of the Bill should be completed by Thursday 29 March. It also provides for the Committee to sit twice on the first day. It further provides for the standard procedure for the Third Reading debate—[Interruption.]

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Hon. Members leaving the Chamber must do so quietly.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

We believe that the motion provides adequate time for the Committee to scrutinise what is, after all, a short 15-clause Bill, which has undergone extensive pre-legislative scrutiny. Let me remind the House of that scrutiny, which consisted not only of public consultation but of scrutiny by the Deregulation Committee in this House and the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee in another place. As in previous debates, those Committees' reports have proved invaluable.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Does the Minister consider that arguments adduced on Second Reading should affect the amount of time given for the Committee stage?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

That is a matter for the Programming Sub-Committee—but, having listened to the Second Reading debate, I am confident that the time allocated will be adequate to deal with all the points that have been raised, especially given the length of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The Minister has already expressed the opinion that we— I assume that he included himself in that plural—believed that the scrutiny time was sufficient. That being so, he is in a position to answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). Will he please tell us now whether he thinks that arguments raised on Second Reading affect his judgment in any way?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

I obviously did not answer that point to the satisfaction of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), but I answered it as clearly as I am going to. It might have been helpful to the debate—or perhaps not—if the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) had turned up and listened to the arguments. He was noticeable by his absence throughout the entire debate.

The Bill has also undergone rigorous debate in another place, concentrating on its parliamentary and constitutional aspects. As a result, the Bill has been amended and now contains even stricter safeguards than before. As a result of amendments made in another place, every order must now be based on deregulatory measures, which I am sure right hon. and hon. Members will welcome.

This is not some skeleton Bill, to be fleshed out during the parliamentary process. It is a fully thought-through product, and the Government see no need to make any further amendments to it. Therefore, the time in Committee can be spent on debating the issues in the Bill, not on considering Government amendments. We have no intention of producing any amendments in Committee at this stage.

One of the most important features of the Programming Sub-Committee is that it gives Opposition Members the opportunity to decide on priorities. It will be for them to stipulate the amount of time that the Standing Committee will take in examining particular aspects of the Bill.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Transport and the Regions)

The Minister has stipulated that he is not at all affected by the Second Reading debate and has guaranteed that the Government have no intention of proposing amendments in Committee, so what is the point of having a Committee stage?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman—I am sure inadvertently—misquotes me. I said that I was sure that sufficient time had been allocated by the programme motion to take care of all the points that had been made on Second Reading As I said in response to a previous intervention, it would probably have been more useful if the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton) had been present during Second Reading—his contribution might have been more apposite.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I believe that the Minister is being quite helpful. I am interested in the procedures of this House, as he knows. Will he confirm that if the Programming Sub-Committee would like to have more sittings within the timetable—that is, by the time the Bill leaves Committee—the Government would be happy to agree to that to allow the Opposition parties to ensure that all their it concerns were dealt with properly in Committee?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

That is clearly a matter for the Programming Sub-Committee and its Chairman, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

The Government will not stipulate the amount of time to be spent on, say, the first four clauses; that will be for Opposition Members to decide. I hope chat the House will recognise that it is not the Government who win from the programme motion. The Opposition gain from being able to set out how they want the debate to be held, and the whole House wins from added certainty about the timetabling of Bills.

I ask the House to support the programme motion.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal 10:23, 19 March 2001

I am astonished by the Minister's assertions. In introducing his programme motion, he seemed to combine arrogance with regard to the Bill's proper scrutiny by the House with incompetence.

The Minister of State in the other place also seemed to suggest when the Bill arrived there that it had been the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny and examination by deregulation committees. Yet in the course of its examination in the House of Lords, amendments were made to the Bill concerning parliamentary control of subordinate provisions orders, the imposition of burdens and the extent to which they needed to be removed or reduced, and the extent to which cost savings were illustrated in clause 6. A Bill that the Minister described as "perfectly formed" was certainly not so when it was introduced in another place, and it was the subject of amendments there.

The Minister is saying that the Second Reading debate has had no impact on him. It is possible that he paid no attention to it, but in my hearing of it, a number of matters were raised—and not only by Conservative Members, which is interesting. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. White), who is no longer with us, and the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) said that they believed that the Bill did not go far enough on simplification and comprehensibility. Yet the Minister seems to be discounting not only points made by Conservative Members but those made by his colleagues.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

When my noble Friend Lord Falconer introduced the Bill in the other place, he made it clear that the Government were open to particular amendments because of the recommendations of. the Deregulation Committee in this House, as hon. Members will see if they read Lords Hansard. I said—I want the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and others to be clear about this point—that the Government have no intention of tabling amendments in Committee. We will, of course, listen as carefully as possible to the arguments put forward by Conservative and, indeed, Labour Members.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

The mention of the Minister of State in the Lords reminds us that incompetence and arrogance seem to go together in this Government. The Minister says that the Government do not intend to table amendments, but that does not absolve them of the necessity to have regard to the extent of amendments that might be tabled in Committee by Conservative Members, Liberal Democrats or even, heaven I offend, Labour Back Benchers. Yet the Government seem to have assumed that the Committee stage can be completed by 29 March, regardless of the number of amendments that are tabled.

That is all of a piece with the way in which this Government behave. They are not interested in what others have to say; they are interested only in passing their Bill according to their timetable. As the Second Reading debate demonstrated, they want their fig leaf of deregulation to cover the nakedness of their regulatory activity over the past four years.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

It does not say that here—I just made it up.

A number of issues were addressed in the Second Reading debate and, more importantly, as the Minister will have observed, Conservative Members moved a reasoned amendment objecting to the principle of the Bill, which is objectionable in that it is capable of being a regulatory Bill—one which imposes burdens rather than using an exceptional. important power for a specific deregulatory purpose.

The Minister was right to say that there is now a degree of acceptance, which extends to his party as well as to ours, about the use of what the Minister described as a super-affirmative procedure for secondary legislation to amend regulatory effects of primary legislation, but Conservative Members have not reconciled themselves to that in circumstances where it could be used to impose new burdens and to free the public sector to impose additional costs or to reduce its own burdens at the expense of the private sector. We are not reconciled to the idea that that exceptional procedure should be used other than for the specific purpose of removing the burden that the state imposes on the private citizen, yet the Government plan to pursue that point.

Having lost the vote on our reasoned amendment, we find that the Minister has no regard to the additional safeguards that we might want to propose in Committee. It is incumbent on me to give the Minister an indication of some of the measures that we would like to suggest in amendments.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

Before I launch into the precise detail. I happily give way to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My hon. Friend makes the point that the Bill may be used to impose further regulations. He might add that the order-making procedure that the House is being asked to approve will not give us the opportunity to amend any further obligations that we may be asked to agree to. The order-making procedure is all or nothing.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. On Second Reading of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) opposed the measure from the Labour Benches principally on the ground that it contained a power to amend or even repeal Acts of Parliament. Substantial but unamendable changes could be made to primary legislation even though, in certain circumstances, formal scrutiny by the House would be limited to a 90-minute debate under the affirmative resolution procedure.

Such changes were subject to prior scrutiny by the deregulation Committees, but scrutiny by the Members of the House was limited. I was not a Member at that time, but my right hon. and learned Friend will recall that the Conservative Government thought that the procedure was justified because of the wider benefit to be derived for the business community and private citizens from the ability to reduce the overall burden of regulation. That power is to be used by the Government to take wholly new directions, although there are no safeguards in place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) referred to the tests that have to be applied—those of proportionality, fair balance and the desirability of such measures—and the language used leads one to the question whether a Minister is of the opinion that a particular regulatory reform order is desirable. There is no constraint in the Bill that provides that a Minister can proceed only on the basis that there is a net deregulatory—

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The debate is about the time allocated for proceedings in Committee. The hon. Gentleman should restrict his comments to that.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The remarks of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) tempted me.

I emphasise that the amendments that we want to table in Committee and the question of safeguards both warrant a significant allocation of time and neither should be prejudiced by the Government's decision that consideration must be completed by 29 March. Let me give an example of what we want to scrutinise.

On the test of proportionality, when burdens are to be imposed through the making or re-enactment of provisions, there should be a proportional benefit. However, as Baroness Buscombe said in the other place, the Bill does not deal with whether such additional burdens are necessary, and the necessity of such measures must be considered. We must also be sure that their effect will be genuinely deregulatory.

One of the Bill's serious and principal deficiencies relates to Ministers in the other place. At the end of the debate on Second Reading, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office was prepared to use the weasel words that every regulatory reform order would be deregulatory in effect. However, he would not answer the question whether they would have a net deregulatory effect in practice.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is falling into the same trap. He must direct his remarks to the time that will be spent in Committee.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I shall indeed address myself to the time. There are a number of amendments relating directly to the point that I was making; I shall certainly want to test it during the Standing Committee's discussions.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Will my hon. Friend respond to the same question that I put to the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office? If in the light of amendments tabled in Standing Committee, it is clear that the number of sittings agreed to in the sittings motion is inadequate, does my hon. Friend believe that the Government will permit additional sittings to ensure that all the amendments considered important by Opposition parties are properly debated?

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

I entirely take my hon. Friend's point—I hope. That should be the case—that is what the Government should do. However, the experience of the Opposition is that, on some occasions, the Government—far from making available additional sittings within the time constraints of the programme motion—have actually curtailed the number of sittings previously promised. Having listened to a debate on that subject last week, I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends realise that the Government are not to be trusted on such matters.

Although the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office says that the Bill is small, the significance of the provisions that we have to discuss is not small. The need for simplification of legislation in general was raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House on Second Reading. Such simplification is not present in the Bill, although language on modernisation might intrude if members of the De regulation Committee had their way. The consideration of simplification is one of the safeguards that must be built into the legislation. That will need further time fur discussion.

We also need to ensure that there are safeguards on powers introduced both as regards the extension of criminal sanctions and as regards the extent to which Ministers are able to incur expenditure under the legislation. Both are curious matters for contemplation under a deregulatory measure. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to table amendments to ensure that there ate safeguards on changes to primary legislation that would have the effect of changing criminal sanctions; such measures should be appropriately circumscribed.

The Committee may want to consider not only amendments to existing clauses—the length of the Bill in terms of the number of clauses is not an absolute constraint—but one or more new clauses. For example, the review of regulatory reform orders and of the legislation itself has been the subject of some undertakings from Ministers, but it has not been built into the Bill. The Committee should certainly examine those matters in the form of new clauses. My colleagues—and, I suspect, business organisations—attach considerable importance to setting up some form of review of regulatory reform orders after a period, so as to determine whether they give rise to the cost and savings benefits and disbenefits that will be anticipated in the documents to be laid before the House under clause 6.

The whole scope of consultation, as well as internal parliamentary scrutiny, continues to give us serious cause for concern. The active involvement of external organisations in securing scrutiny of the legislation and of regulatory reform orders before they are even considered by the Select Committees is integral to the success of the whole deregulation process. In that respect, it is significant that clause 6 gives quite detailed provisions as to what should be presented in the document laid before Parliament, although there is more to say on regulatory impact assessments. Clause 5 provides for consultation external to Parliament. Business organisations should have much of the same information; we hope to table amendments to that effect.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Does the hon. Gentleman think that he might not have had a problem with time if Conservative members of the Deregulation Committee had taken part in the consideration of the draft Bill, rather than boycotting the proceedings?

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

The hon. Gentleman simply repeats remarks that he made on Second Reading. The simple fact of the matter is that Minister did not take on board some of the Deregulation Committee's proposals. For example, the hon. Gentleman could have told us about the reasons why the Government did not choose to include a provision on modernisation and simplification, which the Deregulation Committee wanted to come within the scope of regulatory reform orders. So there are many issues to be discussed.

Although the Bill is short, it is highly significant. It not only has wide constitutional implications but could seriously affect a lot of legislation, so it is important that we get it right. The House has given it a Second Reading and, in due course, it should become an Act that is as near as possible to the objective, contained in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, of providing an exceptional power to deliver a specific deregulatory purpose. We intend to use all the time available in Committee to table amendments to improve the Bill, in so far as the Government will give us the opportunity to do so.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall 10:41, 19 March 2001

The very fact that the Conservative spokesman has run into difficulty in trying to avoid rehearsing the arguments on the substance of the Bill shows how ridiculous programme motion debates have become. That, I fear, is largely because of the way in which the Government have handled the business of the House, rather than being the responsibility of the Opposition parties which, obviously, can have only a limited impact on such motions.

I shall stick to the subject of the programme motion itself. Clearly, the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary introduced it was itself rather peculiar. First he said—I cannot precisely repeat his words, but I think that I paraphrase accurately—that he could not envisage circumstances in which the Government would introduce amendments. However, he slipped in the phrase, "at present". I am sure that we shall see that qualification when we read Hansard tomorrow morning. When he was challenged on that point, he made another statement, which was slightly different.

What is so intrinsically absurd about programme motions like this is that, before the Committee of Selection has even appointed the Standing Committee's members or its Chairman and before the Programming Sub-Committee has had an opportunity to analyse the issues raised on Second Reading—let alone to look at any representation made from outside the House since the Bill's consideration in the other place—the Government see fit to put an end date on the Bill's consideration in Committee. That is patently, intrinsically absurd, and it is unnecessary. This week, I hope to put some proposals to the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons to discover whether we cannot break the ludicrous logjam of programme motions. I appeal to those on both Front Benches carefully to consider ways in which programme motions can proceed consensually, to give them the real impact that they were intended to have when they were first proposed by the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery) in his capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure in the previous Parliament, and by the Modernisation Committee in this Parliament.

I very much hope that Back Benchers on both sides of the House, who must recognise what a silly farce programme motions have become, will exert pressure on those on their Front Benches to discover whether we cannot make progress. Some Members think that we can make no progress on anything until we are the other side of the general election, but I remind them it is possible that, instead of Dissolution taking place in 13 days' time, it could still be 13 months away.

We simply cannot go on for another 13 months with the current absurdities that have been put before us tonight, and night after night, with programme motions. I hope therefore that in considering the proposals, all members of the Modernisation Committee, on both sides of the House, will be prepared to discover whether we cannot find some way through.

There is an additional reason: we cannot wait until the other side of polling day to establish what Sessional Orders may be appropriate to the new Parliament. So it is important to try to achieve a consensus on both sides of the House on how to improve the situation. Certainly, the present arrangement brings no credit on the House. These 45-minute debates have become increasingly sterile—a genuine dialogue of the deaf—and they have not prepared the House for better management of its business.

Effective scrutiny depends on the Opposition parties having an opportunity to say how the detailed issues should be addressed and how much time should be given to the particular parts of a Bill. I accept that the Government have a right to seek to get their business out of Committee by an end date. However, it is totally unnecessary to table the type of motion that is before the House tonight. I very much hope that, in the next few days, we might seek to make progress so that at least in the new Parliament—be that in a month or two or 14 months or so—we can bring credit to the way in which the House does its business.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 10:45, 19 March 2001

I rise once again to oppose the principle of a programme motion. Those on the Government Front Bench need to understand that there is no consent to the process on which they are embarking. They also need to understand that the lack of consent is perfectly genuine. I have been in this place a long time, so I recognise that Members of Parliament often express views that are, on the whole, superficial. One is entitled to ask, "Do they really mean it?" However, we really do mean it when we say that the current process of timetabling is deeply unacceptable to us.

The process is unacceptable for a variety of reasons that I shall outline shortly. However, the consequence is critically important. If a sizeable portion of the House does not accept a process, that process has no legitimacy. The House can proceed only if we have what might be broadly defined as genuine acquiesence. There is no genuine acquiesence in the process of timetabling; and the consequences of such a lack of acquiesence are actions, such as those effected by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), that demonstrate the House's collective disquiet at the process on which the Government are embarking.

This is an important Bill. I shall not discuss it because you would call me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it will give the Government a wide discretionary power to change or to disapply primary legislation. That is a constitutional innovation. I, for one, find it passing strange that Third Reading should permit but one hour of debate on a measure of such constitutional importance.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) made the point that we need to consider whether it might be possible to reach a consensus on timetabling. The answer is that we might be able to do so, but that has to be on the basis that there is genuine time for discussion. I have been in this place a long time and, like others, I know that from time to time Members abuse the processes of the House. When there is a genuine feeling that the House's processes are being abused, the Government will find that they have tacit support for intervention by way of timetabling or closure even though hon. Members may go through the motions of opposition. Members, however, will not accept timetabling in advance before there is abuse. Government Members must accept that we will never, ever accept artificial timetabling, although we will accept timetabling when there is abuse. However, it will always be a matter of judgment as to when there is or is not abuse.

The Government must also understand that the Committee and Report stages are important. It is all very well to say that this is a small Bill, so the House should just accept it. However, the process of scrutinising legislation contains certain distinct elements. First, we have to consider whether the principle is right. I do not think that it is in this case, because of the constitutional implication—but let us assume that I am wrong. We then have to consider the language in which the legislation is couched. One of our functions as Members of Parliament is to try to ensure that we do not pass legislation that is inherently nonsensical or which gives rise to unforeseen problems. We can only understand that by scrutinising it extensively in Committee.

There is an additional matter to consider which arises from such a debate. The Bill is supposed to enable us to remove, by order, the burdens of regulation. Hon. Members will want to identify cases in Committee or on Report of regulations that are biting on their constituents. They will do that by tabling amendments that draw specific attention to a class of abuse or regulation.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is not merely the number of clauses that counts, but their scope, reach and potential cost? Notwithstanding what the Parliamentary Secretary says about not intending to table amendments, is it not the case that many other people may want to? Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the subordinate provisions order in clause 4—on which the Parliamentary Secretary was notably silent—is highly controversial and should be submitted to extensive debate?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My hon. Friend identifies three major considerations, the second of which is the most important. He draws attention to the fact that the Government have no intention of tabling amendments—as if that were a conclusive argument. I bet they will table amendments. I have been in the House and in government for much longer than the Parliamentary Secretary and the chance of his not tabling amendments is very small. However, I do not care what he does. What concerns me is that my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) may want to table an amendment.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Minister for the Cabinet Office has been trying, from a sedentary position, to get him to stop speaking even though she has spoken a great deal herself and we have only 45 minutes in which to discuss the motion?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The right hon. Lady has prattled throughout her time in the House. I heard background noises, but fortunately I am rather deaf. I tried to see who was making the funny little noise and I am glad to learn that it was the Minister, because that means I do not have to worry about what was going on.

My right hon. Friend is right. We are not concerned primarily with whether the Government want to table amendments. What interests us is whether Back Benchers or Front Benchers of different parties want to do that and articulate their constituents' concerns. The Parliamentary Secretary's attitude is: if the Government do not want to table amendments, does it matter that others might want to? Yes, it does. That is why there is no consent in the House.

I have said before that there is an implied bargain in a democracy between Parliament—the legislature—and the electorate. If the electorate are to accept policy and legislation that imposes burdens on them, they do so on the basis that their representatives in Parliament have been given an opportunity, which they have taken up, to scrutinise legislation. If the Government deprive Parliament of that opportunity, they will destroy the bargain and undermine the basis on which the country accepts the burdens that they impose.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

On the electorate, does my right hon. and learned Friend think that if we continue to muzzle Parliament, the public will become less interested in it and know less about it? It was instructive tonight that when a contestant on the popular programme "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" was asked to name the Speaker of the House of Commons, neither he nor the audience had any idea. They were given four choices—

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I do not expect the right hon. and learned Gentleman to respond to that intervention.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I understand that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) is somewhat embarrassing to the Chair, but he is right: if the House is deprived of an opportunity either to scrutinise legislation or to articulate the concerns of its constituency, no one should be surprised if that constituency—the electorate—does not give a damn about us.

That is what is happening. The Government are, by deliberate policy, muzzling the House. That is a scandal. Let me tell the Minister for the Cabinet Office that I shall be here long after she has gone, and I shall make it my business consistently and persistently to oppose timetable motions, which I believe are a denial of democracy.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 10:56, 19 March 2001

I am not, in principle, against programming. I want it to work. I share the view expressed tonight by the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler): the House was right to seek to use its time better. Unlike my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), I do not believe that people abuse the House. I think that they use the current procedures of the House as they think fit, which is wholly legitimate.

To the Minister I put the question that I raised in an intervention: will he give an assurance that if the Opposition parties believe that, within the programme motion, more sittings of the Standing Committee are necessary, in no circumstances will the Government use their majority on the Committee to deny it the opportunity to have additional sittings? I hope that the Leader of the House and the Government accept the unique position of the Chairman of a Standing Committee who seeks to represent the interests of all members of that Committee, including members of the governing party whose views put them in a minority in that party, so as to ensure that all aspects of the Bill are properly considered by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham says, to do otherwise is to deny the true scrutiny role of the House of Commons.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 265, Noes 43.

Division No. 159][10.57 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeBradley, Keith (Withington)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Ainger, NickBrinton, Mrs Helen
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Allen, GrahamBrowne, Desmond
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E)Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryBurgon, Colin
Ashton, JoeButler, Mrs Christine
Austin, JohnCampbell Alan (Tynemouth)
Bailey, AdrianCampbell-Savours, Dale
Barnes, HarryCann, Jamie
Barron, KevinCaplin, Ivor
Bayley, HughCaton, Martin
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretCawsey,Ian
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Bennett, Andrew FClapham, Michael
Benton, JoeClark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Berry, RogerClark, Dr Lynda (Edinourgh Pentlands)
Best, Harold
Blackman, LizClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Blears, Ms HazelClelland, David
Blizzard, BobClwyd, Ann
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulCohen, Harry
Borrow, DavidColeman, Iain
Colman, TonyKeen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Connarty, MichaelKemp, Fraser
Corston, JeanKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Cousins, JimKhabra, Piara S
Cox, TomKilfoyle, Peter
Crausby, DavidKing, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Kumar, Dr Ashok
Davidson, IanLadyman, Dr Stephen
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Lammy, David
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Dawson, HiltonLeslie, Christopher
Dean, Mrs JanetLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Dismore, AndrewLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Dobbin, JimLiddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankLinton, Martin
Donohoe, Brian HLloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Dowd, JimLock, David
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Love, Andrew
Edwards, HuwMcAvoy, Thomas
Efford, CliveMcCabe, Steve
Ennis, JeffMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Field, Rt Hon FrankMcDonagh, Siobhain
Fisher, MarkMacdonald, Calum
Fitzpatrick, JimMcDonnell, John
Fitzsimons, Mrs LornaMcFall, John
Flint, CarolineMcGuire, Mrs Anne
Flynn, PaulMclsaac, Shona
Follett, BarbaraMcKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMackinlay, Andrew
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)McNamara, Kevin
Foulkes, GeorgeMcNulty, Tony
Galloway, GeorgeMacShane, Denis
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)Mactaggart, Fiona
Gerrard, NeilMcWalter, Tony
Gibson, Dr IanMcWilliam, John
Godman, Dr Norman AMahon, Mrs Alice
Godsiff, RogerMallaber, Judy
Goggins, PaulMandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Gordon, Mrs EileenMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Grocott, BruceMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Grogan, JohnMartlew, Eric
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Hanson, DavidMeale, Alan
Healey, JohnMerron, Gillian
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Hendrick, MarkMichie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)
Hepbum, StephenMiller, Andrew
Heppell, JohnMitchell, Austin
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMoffatt, Laura
Hill, KeithMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hinchliffe, DavidMorley, Elliot
Hope, PhilMorris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)Mountford, Kali
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Humble, Mrs JoanMudie, George
Hurst, AlanMullin, Chris
Hutton. JohnMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Iddon, Dr BrianMurphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Illsley, EricNaysmith, Dr Doug
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Olner, Bill
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Pike, Peter L
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Pollard, Kerry
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms TessaPond, Chris
Keeble, Ms SallyPope, Greg
Pound, StephenStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Stinchcombe, Paul
Primarolo, DawnStringer, Graham
Prosser, GwynStuart, Ms Gisela
Purchase, KenSutcliffe, Gerry
Radice, Rt Hon GilesTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, SydTemple-Morris, Peter
Raynsford, NickThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Roche, Mrs BarbaraTodd, Mark
Rooker, Rt Hon JeffTouhig, Don
Rooney, TerryTrickett, Jon
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Truswell, Paul
Rowlands, TedTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Roy, FrankTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Ruddock, JoanTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Salter, MartinTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Sarwar, MohammadTynan, Bill
Savidge, MalcolmVaz, Keith
Shaw, JonathanVis, Dr Rudi
Sheerman, BarryWalley, Ms Joan
Short, Rt Hon ClareWatts, David
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)White, Brian
Skinner, DennisWhitehead, Dr Alan
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Winnick, David
Snape, PeterWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Soley, CliveWoodward, Shaun
Spellar, JohnWorthington, Tony
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr PhyllisTellers for the Ayes:
Steinberg, GerryMr. Clive Betts and
Stevenson, GeorgeMr. Mike Hall.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Evans, Nigel
Amess, DavidFabricant, Michael
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelFallon, Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesFlight, Howard
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Baldry, TonyFox, Dr Liam
Beith, Rt Hon A JGale, Roger
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Garnier, Edward
Bercow, JohnGibb, Nick
Beresford, Sir PaulGill, Christopher
Blunt, CrispinGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Boswell, TimGorman, Mrs Teresa
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Green, Damian
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaGreenway, John
Brady, GrahamGummer, Rt Hon John
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Browning, Mrs AngelaHammond, Philip
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Hancock, Mike
Bums, SimonHarvey, Nick
Butterfill, JohnHawkins, Nick
Cash, WilliamHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Chope, ChristopherHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Clappison, JamesHowarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyJack, Rt Hon Michael
Collins, TimJackson, Robert (Wantage)
Cormack, Sir PatrickJenkin, Bernard
Cran, JamesJohnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Keetch, Paul
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Day, StephenLait, Mrs Jacqui
Duncan, AlanLansley, Andrew
Duncan Smith, IainLeigh, Edward
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterLetwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Sanders, Adrian
Lidington, DavidSayeed, Jonathan
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterShepherd, Richard
Livsey, RichardSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Llwyd, ElfynSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Loughton, TimSpicer, Sir Michael
Luff, PeterSpring, Richard
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McIntosh, Miss AnneSteen, Anthony
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidStreeter, Gary
McLoughlin, PatrickStunell, Andrew
Madel, Sir DavidSwayne, Desmond
Malins, HumfreySyms, Robert
Maples, JohnTapsell, Sir Peter
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianTaylor, John M (Solihull)
May, Mrs TheresaTaylor, Sir Teddy
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Moss, MalcolmTownend, John
Nicholls, PatrickTredinnick, David
Norman, ArchieTrend, Michael
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Tyler, Paul
Ottaway, RichardTyrie, Andrew
Page, RichardViggers, Peter
Paice, JamesWalter, Robert
Paterson, OwenWaterson, Nigel
Pickles, EricWells, Bowen
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelWhitney, Sir Raymond
Prior, DavidWhittingdale, John
Randall, JohnWilkinson, John
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Rendel, DavidWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Robathan, AndrewYeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Tellers for the Noes:
Ruffley, DavidMr. James Gray and
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Mr. Peter Atkinson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered,

That the following provisions shall apply to the Regulatory Reform Bill [Lords]: